Hello Gunners, so much to say today. Since his arrival in September 2006, Frenchman Arsene Wenger has adapted to life at Arsenal like fish to water going on to become the most successful and longest serving manager of the Gunners. In his 16 years stint at the club, Le Prof has won 3 Premier League titles (1997/98, 2001/02, 2003/04), 4 FA Cups (1997/98, 2001/02, 2002/03, 2004/05), 4 Community Shield (1998, 1999, 2002, 2004). In winning the 2003/04 Premier League title, he steered the Gunners to go through the season unbeaten and stretched the unbeaten record to 49 which still stands the longest domestic unbeaten run in the whole of Europe ( only equaled by Juve’s run ). Despite the humongous achievements of the Frenchman, he isn’t infallible and has made several mistakes as Arsenal manager. Most of these flaws have been due to his arrogance and rigidity. Below I espouse them.
Tactically, Wenger is quite rigid and often times surprises fans with his substitution calls and the timing of the introduction of new faces. Wenger often waits until the 75 minute to make necessary changes in games when early changes could have been more effective. In some few matches that Wenger had made changes early enough, more often than not, the course of the game usually changed in the Gunners’ favour but the Frenchman still reverts back to his usual timing of 70 minutes. The quality of the substitution is also questionable atimes. In recent times, Wenger’s judgement has been called into question. The most recent been against Aston Villa when he chose to replace Giroud (the only natural striker on the field at that time) in place of Coquelin, a defensive midfielder when the game was still goaless with Arsenal needing a win to leapfrog Merseysiders Everton into fifth place ahead of the contest at Goodison park. Besides, a win also at Villa Park would have helped Arsenal cut the gap on early pacesetters Manchester City and Chelsea that fired blanks at Stamford Bridge. When he made the call, Arsenal fans chanted ‘you don’t know what you are doing” but the Frenchman retorted
“You can discuss every substitution. You think what you want.
“I do my job and I let people judge it. I do that every day and I do my best every day. I know why I do it.
“What is the thinking behind the substitution? I will not explain every decision I make, you judge the game for the papers and I sit here and explain to you our game.
“You are all great managers! I read the newspapers every day and I can tell you that you are always great managers!”
Wenger denies his reluctance to explain his substitution will cause a rift with Gunners supporters.
He said: “Why should I create a rift? I have given you the answer.”
Earlier in the year, Wenger also made a tactical faux pas when he subbed Chamberlain that had just set Van Persie up for Arsenal’s equalizer against Manchester United for Arshavin. The fans queried the switch, even then captain, Van Persie questioned the substitution when he voiced out “no” and rubbing salt into the wound, Arshavin was partly at fault for the Red Devil’s winning goal. Below was what he said when quizzed over the switch
“”I can understand that the fans are upset about the substitution, especially when it doesn’t work, but he (Oxlade-Chamberlain) had started to fatigue,” he said. ”He was sick in the week. Arshavin is captain of the Russia national team.
”You have an 18-year-old kid making his first Premier League start and a player who’s captain of his country and they are querying the substitution? Let’s be serious.
”I’ve been a manager for 30 years and have made 50,000 substitutions. I do not have to justify every decision I make to you (the Press). I stand up for it.”
What does this tell us, it was obvious he made mistakes that cost us points, instead of admitting he was wrong, he comes up with the arrogant cliché that he has been a manager for donkey years.
Another mistake of Wenger is playing players out of their preferred position. I know he has made a success of converting players from their normal roles to other roles they thought awkwardly of initially but became a master there; players like Kolo Toure that he moved from forward role to a colossus in defenc, Henry whom he converted from a winger to a ful fledged striker, Gibbs from a winger to a left back but the fact that he experienced success with some doesn’t mean he would with others. He is attempting to convert Podolski from a striker to a winger and that seems not to be going down well with the German. In his previous clubs (Bayern Munich and Cologne), he played as a striker and even Wenger confirmed that he is a very good finisher. Then, why waste his talents and finishing on the wings?
“You like to see him in front of goal,” Wenger said. “He doesn’t get there many times per game, but when he gets there, you always think we have a good opportunity to score because he is a fantastic finisher.” (Arsene Wenger)
“I’d rather play as a central attacker, on the left I have to do a lot of defensive work, constantly running up and down. I am not a classical winger.” (Podolski on preference for a striking role)
While Giroud has done creditably well in the striker’s position, I believe Podolski should also be given a shot at it. When the Frenchman is fatigued like against Villa, the German could have taken that role. Playing Gervinho in that position is an insult on the abilities of a player like Podolski who could lead the line and finish off the few chances created. Arsenal do not create as many chances like before hence we need finishers and not wasters.
In the same vein, Walcott has also rallied for a striking role and giving him a shot at it might be key to him signing a new long term deal. Wenger should ditch using strikers as wingers. He should go for conventional wingers, they are in the market.
One of the inhibitions to playing either Walcott or Podolski as a striker is Wenger’s current formation 0f 4-3-3 ( 4-5-1 ) which only gives room for a lone striker as against a 4-4-2 formation that would have allowed two strikers. In the latter, Giroud and Podolski, Giroud and Walcott or Podolski and Walcott can play together. I don’t know why Wenger would ditch a formation that worked so well during his golden years for one that has coincided with his lean years. I doubt if Dennis Bergkamp would have been so fantastic if played on the wings? He was devastating when he played with Henry in a 4-4-2 formation.
Another flaw of Le Prof is the blind faith he keeps in inept and injury prone players when decent ones could have been bought to plug their holes. Wenger kept using Almunia even when the Spaniard perpetually leaked unnecessary goals that cost us valuable points and silverware when he could have brought in Mark schwarzer for just a few million ( one million extra if my memory hasn’t failed me ), thank God we now have Szczesny. With Diaby and Gibbs, he has kept faith with two injury prone players instead of getting a better defensive midfielder that could take the Frenchman’s role whenever he went on his injury sabbatical. As for Gibbs, he should have gotten a better back-up for the left-back role when it became obvious Santos is more of a winger than a defender. I hope it doesn’t end like Van Persie whose 8 years romance with Arsenal was bedeviled with injuries and still Wenger kept faith with him and the season he went without any serious injury, he remembered he had a little boy inside of him and jumped ship to somewhere else. Those are just few examples, needn’t talk about Cygan, Senderous and Chamakh, the troubles they caused us still have landmarks all over the Emirates.
Wenger is too pinchy when it comes to transfer fees. Owing to his high handedness, he has missed out on top transfer targets, some the clubs refused to sell for his “derisory” offer, others were hijacked by those willing to go the whole hog. Some we have been unfortunate to fall into their hands and they have perpetually punished us. Arsenal lost Mata to Chelsea because Wenger wasn’t willing to pay few extra millions of Pounds to Valencia, how about Petr Cech while he was still at French club Rennes and the big one Ronaldo who was at Highbury and even had an Arsenal jersey with his name but the deal fell through because Wenger baulked at paying few extra millions of Pounds. The rest his history.
Finally, his footballing philosophy. Wenger has resolutely stood by his attacking philosophy even when others were going defensive. Arsenal’s overtly attacking philosophy and neglect of the defense has made the Gunners vulnerable to teams that have decent attack.
While this piece isn’t a condemnation of the “great man” and a derision of his mega achievements at Arsenal in his 16 years, it is just a reality check and a call to be a little flexible in his approach. If only he can, Arsenal would be the better for it and we would be probably cleaning dust off our trophies and not dust off the empty shelves of the trophy cabinet in 7 years.
A little bit of news here and there, Wenger has confirmed interest in Zaha. Recently, I reported that Arsenal had beaten the other interested clubs to the signature of Championship and Crystal palace hotshot Wilifred Zaha. Seems Wenger is ready to let the cat out of the bag when he revealed Zaha was one of the players the club was looking at.
‘We are looking at every player who could strengthen our squad, but he (Zaha) is not more on the list than anyone else.’ (Wenger on Wilifred Zaha’s interest)
Wenger’s transfer hints are clear. When he says he wants a player, he probably isn’t interested. When he says he doesn’t know a player as he said about Cazorla, a move is in the offing. In Zaha’s case, the deal is a done one but Wenger in his usual coy manner is trying to deflect attentions. There has been other hints confirming Zaha as an imminent Gunner which I have graciously shared on this blog.
There has been so much fuss over the omission of contract hopefuls Walcott and Sagna from Arsenal’s official calendar for 2013. Some media reports have ferried it as the clearest indication that both would be departing Emirates in 2013. While their stay beyond 2013 at Arsenal isn’t guaranteed, neither is their exit written in stones. There is still room for negotiation. Even Wenger revealed that the club and Sagna’s representatives were locked in discussions over the French full back’s future. I disagree that omission from the club’s official 2013 calendar is a damning verdict because other top players were also omitted; Gervinho, Koscielny, Jenkinson, Diaby and Rosicky. Does it mean they are also contract rebels about to be sold?
Written By Kolade Omotosho